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No Longer Strangers

By Pedro Antonio Ordoñez López

I've lived my whole life in the town of Chiqumulilla in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. Despite its beauty, opportunities are limited, and I've not been able to go as far in my studies as I would have liked.

Pedro Antonio Ordoñez

Pedro Antonio Ordoñez López works with the Diocese of Santa Rosa de Lima Caritas office on their maternal-infant education program. Photo courtesy of Pedro Antonio Ordoñez López

My parents' meager income meant that I was not properly nourished as a child and that I did not have the means to participate in extracurricular activities at school like field trips. There were times I was unable to complete my schoolwork because doing so required additional spending, and my family didn't have the money. Nevertheless, God helped me to graduate, and I now work as a nutrition supervisor for our maternal-infant education program at the Santa Rosa de Lima diocese Caritas office. I help supplement my family's income by covering my meals and paying for my courses in agricultural and environmental studies at the Universidad Rafael Landívar-Extensión Escuintla. Fortunately, I can count on the support of my parents and two older brothers.

My community is made up of farmers and herders, who primarily plant the staples of any Guatemalan's diet: corn, beans, rice, and in some areas, coffee. Because much of the land that once was rented to local farmers is now being rented to sugar producers, we are facing a land scarcity crisis. Sugarcane production is also causing serious environmental damage to my community.

'United We Will Achieve a Better World'

I first met the Metuchen youth group members in 2007. They were a friendly group that was interested in knowing us, sharing in our problems and creating ties of brotherhood. I learned from them that when there is good will, love for mankind and a shared faith, a person can become part of other cultures and that humility is a value that must be cultivated throughout one's life. Together we hiked on our way to reach different villages within the Santa Rosa de Lima diocese and visited homes and schools. We planted trees, played soccer and swung at piñatas with local children.

I was surprised that the people in our communities were open enough to approach these visitors and show their affection for them and that the Metuchen youth were so open to accepting this affection. Likewise, I was surprised by the interest that this youth delegation had in talking to and playing with the children in our communities.

What I learned from them is a desire to overcome obstacles, a willingness to help our communities, and an interest in knowing our needs and understanding our culture. This experience fortifies my faith in God and the hope that united we will achieve a better world. It also strengthens my love and respect for my fellow man and my sense of solidarity. Although we speak different languages, are from different races, and have differences in our cultures—for example the majority of Guatemalan youth must work from childhood to help support their families—we still remain similar. We love God, share the same faith, are active in the same Church, are in favor of universal unity, we like to share with others and are generally happy. We share the same universal language of love.

Pedro Antonio Ordoñez López is currently studying agriculture and environmental science at the Universidad Rafael Landívar-Extensión Escuintla in Santa Rosa, Guatemala.

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